LIGHTNING CAPITAL OF THE U.S.
According to lightning facts found on www.lynscan.com, LynScan, Inc., a lightning research firm, tells us that NASA no longer considers Florida the lightning capital of the world. Florida now ranks only as lightning capital of the U.S. The central African nation of Rwanda receives twice as much lightning as Florida (LynScan, Inc.) However, this quite impressive rank still warrants our utmost attention.
Living in the state ranking as the U.S. lightning leader, we must give our utmost attention to this phenomenon. For instance, a CNN.com weather story reports, "Thunderstorms produce more than a million lightning strikes a year." Focusing on the horrendous Florida wildfires of 1998, the same report also tells us the authorities at the time reported, "Ninety percent of the recent wildfires have been started by lightning." Moreover, the article states that "bolts from the sky kill an average of 10 people each year," reiterating the above statistics by the NOAA (CNN).
THE TOP LOCATIONS FOR A STRIKE
If you would personally like to find lightning, go golfing in Florida around four p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in July. According to NASA, "Most lightning casualties occur in the afternoon-two-thirds between noon and 4 p.m….Sunday has 24% more deaths than other days, followed by Wednesday. Lightning reports reach their peak in July" (NASA). The greatest numbers of deaths and injuries occur during the summer months because of the combination of lightning and outdoor activities. Many victims report having been walking in an open field, swimming, or holding metal objects like golf clubs, umbrellas, and fishing rods. However, you need not be holding an object to be struck by lightning (NASA).
Where. Most of us fall into the category of enjoying outdoor activities during the summer. Therefore, most of us fall into the category of being in a possible lightning strike zone when conditions are right. The six most common dangerous activities associated with lightning strikes, according to LynScan, Inc., are:
- Work or play in open fields.
- Boating, fishing, and swimming.
- Working on heavy farm or road equipment.
- Playing golf.
- Talking on the telephone.
Understand the dangers of lightning. When you hear thunder, you are in lighting strike range. Seek shelter.
THUNDERSTORMS AND LIGHTNING
Beginning in June and extending through the summer, lightning flashes dominate Florida weather.
Thunderstorm Ingredients. The National Weather Service still cannot forecast the location or time of the cloud conditions needed to produce lightning. However, the NWS is continually gaining a better understanding of the process that produces lightning. In information found on www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov, the NWS states, "A thunderstorm forms in air that has three components: moisture, instability, and … a cold front to cause the air to rise" (NWS). The storm may rise to heights of 35,000 to 60,000 feet. At these heights, temperatures are colder and ice forms in the higher parts of the cloud.
The NWS also provides an easy explanation of the thunderstorm development process. Ice in a cloud is a key element in the development of lightning. Various sizes of ice particles collide in the motions of the storm. These collisions then cause the electrical charges to separate. The positive charges move to the top of the storm, and the negative charges to the bottom. In addition, as the storm travels along, it gathers more positively charged particles from objects on the ground. This process causes positively charged particles to rise up taller objects such as trees, houses, poles, and even people. For instance, have you ever been in a storm and had your hair stand up? This is a warning sign. You are in the wrong place and may be a lightning target (NWS).
30-30 Rule. There are two easy methods that help to determine how far away the lightning is from you. One method, suggested by The National Lightning Safety Institute, at www.lightningsafety.com, is the 30-30 Rule. "Use the 30-30 rule where visibility is good and there is nothing obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter immediately. Also, the threat of lightning continues for much longer period than most people realize. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning flash before leaving shelter. Don't be fooled by sunshine or blue sky" (NLSI)
Flash to Bang Method. David O. Stillings offers an alternative method of determining the distance between lightning and you. On his website www.lightningstalker.com, Stilling says, "Remember the Flash to Bang method to estimate lightning from your location - If you see lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five (5) to get the distance the lightning is away from you. Example: If you see lightning and it takes 10 seconds before you hear the thunder, then the lightning is 2 miles away from you (10 divided by 5 = 2 miles)" (Stilling).